Zackary Drucker and Rhys Ernst’s short film SHE GONE ROGUE is a remarkable odyssey through a world of transgender-themed magical realism. Drucker portrays Darling, a figure roughly analogous to Alice (in Wonderland) or Dorothy (of The Wizard of Oz), who journeys through a fairy-tale world of the mind in order to define an identity and recover from an emotional wound: the departure of her partner (Drucker’s real life partner Rhys Ernst).
Visually, this is a very strong film, wielding both gossamer majesty and grotesque-ness. The fantastical scenery and props are made up of a patchwork of traditional components: enchanted wildernesses and structures, mythical mentors, magical artifacts, and of course, doorways to other worlds. All of these are portrayed by decidedly contemporary environments, objects, and people. This gives the piece a very distinctive “recycled” or “do it yourself” look. Although the objects themselves are mundane, all are vested with meaning or mystique, colorful and exciting even in their familiarity. (This is particularly evident within the home of Mother Flawless Sabrina.)
One displeasing point – an uncommon one, for this critic – was with a few specific tropes originating from popular feminist and LGBT philosophy and art. They included assays into the gap between humanity and nature, the inadequacy of nature, and the effects of sexuality and biology on families. While LGBT issues are always guaranteed to be novel and edgy to certain groups of people, some of these tropes are in danger of becoming hackneyed in the eyes of those who have accepted their premises and internalized their concepts – at least, when they are not handled with sufficient creativity to revitalize them. However, the slight lack in this area can readily be chalked up to the film’s clear goals; one important goal here is to illicit nostalgia for archetypes of previous eras in queer culture, comparing them to the possibilities emerging in the present and future. This is a move that can surely be appreciated by long-time followers of such performers, as well as neophytes.
Along her journey of self-discovery, Darling meets legendary figures, a set of prototypical transgender predecessors to compare herself to: her aunt Holly (Holly Woodlawn), the Whoracle of Delphi (Vaginal Davis), and Mother Flawless Sabrina (Jack Doroshow). These characters are perhaps the film’s greatest strength, as it is a joy to watch them in action, and ponder on the meanings behind those actions.
These transgendered sages – as well as Darling herself – come from a culture whose members, by necessity, are adept at presenting themselves to others using a purposeful aesthetic. In this, SHE GONE ROGUE is completely successful. The acute sense of beauty possessed by the film’s creators and performers is evident in every frame.
SHE GONE ROGUE Review
Engaging a world of dream-like magical realism, SHE GONE ROGUE references Maya Deren's Meshes of the Afternoon, utilizing a space where singular selves multiply and expand, offering windows into parallel dimensions, with time and space collapsing into a whirlpool of divergent possibilities. When Drucker finally finds the white rabbit, the process of identity construction completes a full circle, offering more questions than answers.